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tv   Dateline Extra  MSNBC  October 29, 2017 1:00am-2:00am PDT

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his appeal is automatic. the average stay on florida's death row is 12 1/2 years.
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>> reporter: she still writes her letters even though toni can no longer respond. >> dear aunt toni, are you enjoying it in heaven? i miss you very much. i read a book about heaven. it must be great. love, your niece, anna kate. >> reporter: anna kate was 7 when her aunt died.
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here's this woman smiling, about to take a hike for her anniversary. there's nothing you can see from those photos that they took that would ever begin to suggest how it would all end. it's chilling. >> she was a beloved doctor, amazing mom, sunday school
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here's this woman smiling, about to take a hike for her anniversary. there's nothing you can see from those photos that they took that would ever begin to suggest how it would all end. it's chilling. >> she was a beloved doctor, amazing mom, sunday school teacher. >> she'd given so much love to others. finally, she'd found it for herself. a handsome widower touched by tragedy. here's this woman smiling,
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about to take a hike for her anniversary. >> he wouldn't do that. why would he? >> tragic. horrible. no longer respond. >> dear aunt toni, are you enjoying it in heaven? i miss you very much. i read a book about heaven. it must be great.
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as they arrived at the station, the rescuer has made to the base more than 100 feet below the top. he expected to find a wounded woman there, but he didn't. >> i'm saying she's not here, i'll meet at the first point.
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maybe this is a hoax, maybe she never really went off the cliff. >> he and another rescuer began to walk along the base pointing their flashlights north. finally about 30 feet away, they landed on something white. it was jovi lying motionless next to a tree. >> there was a lot of blood on that tree. it was draining down the tree. that's where the severe impact took. >> jody sharp had not survived the fall. it was clear she had slammed into that tree. as they began to move the body, he he noticed something else. >> an alcoholic beverage that emmated from her body. >> so did you think mbe she had had too much to drink and fell? >> that entered my mind, yes. >> at that moment, steven sharp was sitting in a room at the police station waiting for someone to tell him what had happened to his wife.
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>> do you remember what is going through your mind at that point? >> how badly is she hurt, where is she, why isn't she calling back to me. >> and that's when an officer broke the news, jody was gone about that. >> i don't even remember who told me. >> what was your reaction? >> denial. how could this happen. >> that question would haunt him and many others. and it would take years for the answers to finally come. coming up -- >> he was rubbing his eyes to make it looks like he was crying. >> you thought he was faking tears? >> absolutely. >> curious behavior puts a husband under the microscope. when "dateline" continues. my shoulders carry a lot of names
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it was the worst night of his life and now steven sharp had to tell his 10-year-old son jonathan his mother was dead. >> i said to my jonathan, we need to take a walk. and i told him and he immediately burst into tears. and i cried. cried like a baby. i wasn't ashamed. >> he remembers his distraught son's reaction, but little else. >> were you sleeping, were you eating? >> drinking.
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>> you were drinking. >> i lost my wife. my son lost his mom. >> there was plenty of sympathy among family and friends to be sure. for the man newly widowed, with a small child to raise on his own. his wife had died in a freak accident off a cliff of all places. how could that happen. and that is exactly what police who were there the nice of jody's dead wanted to know, too. >> right away i got a feeling that it was something definitely wrong. >> it nagged at rescuer michael. why jody's purse on a ledge just feet plea where her husband said she had fallen. >> where is she, she should be here. or part of her should be here. either she should be here or her pocketbook with her. >> another thought dawned on him. if she had tumbled, why hasn't she hit the side of the slcliff?
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there was no blood or hair anywhere on the rocks. and the location of jody's body on seemed off. >> she was like 30 to on 40 feet away from us to the north. a person falls off the cliff, usually they will go south or right down. should have been right down where i got off the reasons. >> someone else was scratching his head about that night for different reasons. it had to do with steven's behavior while the search was under way. officer walter serig was surprised steven was willing to leave the lookout as rescuers were still looking for jody. >> did he givefully indication i don't want to leave, my wife could still be alive down there. >> not at all. >> he couldn't believe how willingly steven sharp got into his patrol car. >> if it was my wife, girlfriend, whoever, they would have had to rye me away from that scene.
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>> but he willingly got into the patrol car. when the officer heard how steven described how jody had fall en -- >> there was no emotion. >> did it occur to you maybe he's in shock? >> no, i've seen people who have lost loved ones and i've never seen anybody act that with ay. >> it was a particular moment that caught his attention. >> he got a drink from the water fountain and looking over his shoulder at me and rubbing his eyes to make it looks like he was crying. >> you thought he was faking tears in. >> absolutely. >> a death scene where the pieces did not connect. a us husbahusband who appeared nonchalant. from a cop's point of view, things were adding up and not in steven's favor.
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>> not just one thing, it was like the totality of the circumstances. everything -- every little thing was clicking in my mind and saying to myself, you know, this sb isn't right. >> gut instinct is one thing, but evidence is quite another. people handle terrible events in different ways. the police are paid to be suspicious. maybe their view of steven was too jaundiced. there really was nothing to indicate that jody's fall was anything but an accident. a few months later, the ruling was in. the bergen county medical examiner concluded the manner of jody sharp's death could not be determined. an accident was as likely as anything else. case closed. or was it? >> the suspicions grow. was there is a weapon at this romantic rendezvous? coming up -- >> wine, cheese, crackers, and a
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jody's death had been a more onable accident. her husband said so. and the medical examiner wasn't arguing with him. but detectives have a kind of sixth sense about cases. it was telling james something sinister had just happened.
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>> you didn't think this was a horrible accident? >> no. >> there wasn't any smoking gun really. just something dark he thought he could read between the lines in the police notes he reviewed the day after jody's death. >> he did not react like somebody who just lost his wife should have reacted. >> and so the detective moved his investigation from the physical evidence to the less tangible clues. he quickly learned from jody's friends that this was a couple not in love but in crisis. the subject wasn't wine and roses on those cliffs, it was divorce. >> she was going to go through with it, yes. absolutely. >> jody's longtime friend maryann told detectives that jody had been determined to take her 10-year-old son jonathan and leave her husband. she was convinced steven had been cheating on her. >> she couldn't prove anything, but women called the house.
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and sometimes they would call and hang up on her. >> in fact he learned gentlemengentlemejody had served her husband divorce papers and less than two weeks later she was dead. the timing made him even more eager to talk to the widower sharp. >> there was a hit-down with mr. sharp. >> yes. >> two days after his wife's death, steven sharp was freely answering detective's questions. yes, he told them, he and his wife were talking divorce as they had sometimes done during their tell pet chew us marriage. and it was true, there were other women. >> he told us they had an open marriage. he said he had been with 50 to 60 women. >> and she was okay with it according to him? >> yeah. >> but he told detectives he and jody had become unhappy with their free love lifestyle, so they came to this romantic if
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treacherous spot to recommit to each other, steven said, to kiss and make up. >> and the spot where they went, it's not a spot where you would go to reconcile with anybody. >> detectives weren't buying the story for another reason. they had found something suspicious inside his car. a bag filled with items that you would expect for a romantic picnic and one that you would not, a hammer. >> oh, yeah, wine, cheese, crackers, claw hammer. >> did you think that might be a murder weapon? >> yeah, i thought that might have been plan a. and he didn't use it, so he went to plan b. >> which he believed was to push or throw jody off that cliff. so detectives asked steven sharp the obvious. what was a hammer doing in that picnic bag? >> he told us he fixed a drawer in his kitchen with the hammer
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and he just forgot to put it back in the garage. he put it in the bag with the picnic items, it was just convenient. convenient excuse for having that hammer. >> detectives asked if they could check out the drawer and the rest of steven's house that night. he agreed. but as it turned out, something potentially far more telling was happening away from the action. >> and i said look, mr. sharp, i'm your local police department. >> a local officer was told to keep an eye on steven sharp that night as detectives combed through his house. the officer says he began talking to steven about what had happened to yjody. >> and he said you don't believe me. >> and then the officer said sharp said something that almost knocked him off his feet. >> i said i believe an accident occurred. and i said was it an accident in and he put his head down and he said no. >> he believed that was a
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stunning confession. he ran to tell the other detectives, but they had just spent hours grilling the man. >> we weren't getting that feeling that a re-interview at that point would have done gh . anything. >> but they still believed they could find solid evidence to implicate steven sharp, but they didn't. >> the cause of death at that time was listed as undetermined, so officially it wasn't a homicide. >> in time, the detectives moved on to other cases. steven sharp moved on too. 14 years after his wife's death, remarried. tina sharp says he's been a loving ideal husband. >> it was like we were two on puzzle pieces that were made for each other where w just -- each of us complemented and completed the other person. >> but even in this happy new life he says he's never forgotten about jody. but he might have been surprised to learn that someone else was
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thinking of her, too, after all these years. bergen county had a new prosecutor and he was eager to visit old case files, among them an unexplained death here on the cliffs of the palisades so many years ago, death of jody sharp. >> there was a renewed push since 2002 to look into the cold cases. >> on one hand he says, it didn't seem the prosecutor had any reason to pursue the cold case. >> in terms of hard evidence, it had absolutely nothing new. >> but the prosecutor did have someone new. a famous name to join the investigation into jody sharp's death. dr. michael boden, a world renowned forensic pathologist who investigated deaths of john f. kennedy and john belushi and testified at the trial of o.j. simpson on. he was about to turn up the heat on a very cold case.
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>> the doctor has reviewed the evidence and determined that this could not have been an accidental fall. >> in december of 2008, detectives paid one more visit to steven sharp. >> they wouldn't tell me what it was for. i had no idea what this was about. it didn't make sense. >> 16 years after that fatal night on the cliff, police were back. and steven sharp was in for a shock. >> after all these years, you thought it was done. >> >> not until they reached behind and hand me this thing, this arrest warrant. coming up -- the case heads into court with a surprise from the stand. >> i'm hear for my mother. >> steven and jody sharp's only son has some dark secrets to share. >> did you see that abuse? >> i did. >> when "dateline" continues. one laugh, and hello sensitive bladder.
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i'm milissa rehberger with your top stories. nbc news has confirmed an
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indictment is coming monday regarding the russia investigation. a federal judge has ordered charges to be sealed. the indictment target has not been made public. a new poll shows 63% disapprove of president trump's job performance. the "washington post" university of maryland poll also shows nearly 60& of the public believe president trump is causing more dysfunction in politics. back to "dateline." welcome back to "dateline." i'm craig melvin. years after jody sharp fell for her desk, a new prosecutor reopened the case and brought in a famous pathologist to reexamine the evidence. what would he uncover? here again is chrdate line. >> in every murder trial, time is a crucial player for both sides. >> 16 years -- >> sometimes it hurts a case.
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memories fade. evidence is lost. witnesses die. but time can also put evidence in a new light. such was the case in the trial of steven sharp, accused of killing his wife nearly two decades ago. >> there is no statute of limitations on murder. >> the prosecutor promised the evidence would tell a story as simple as it was brutal. a husband determined to avoid a costly divorce lured his wife to the edge of a cliff and forced her off it. >> if he has lied, he is guilty. >> the state marshalled some familiar facts to tell its story, starting with the crime scene where the prosecutor said the cliffs showed no sign of an accidental tumble. >> no debris, no clothing, no blood, no hair, no tissue. >> and then there was the husband himself.
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cool and collected in the back of a police car. >> i didn't see any emotion from him at all. >> who later confessed the prosecutor said to killing his wife. >> and then i said it was an accident? and he said no. >> but those facts were not where the case ended. the prosecutor argued that they simply set the stage for the real case, a story told by the victim's friends, family and most importantly by a star witness. >> my opinion is that the manner of death is homicide. >> dr. michael boden told jurors the crime scene spoke of a murder, not an accident. >> if a person falls accidentally, the individual will be within a couple feet of the base of the building. >> and that didn't happen in the case of jody sharp. her body landed 50 feet out from
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the top of the cliff and 30 feet to the north. >> she had to have been propelled from that point. >> jody had to have been thrown or pushed to her death he said and likely from another spot entirely on those cliffs. he wasn't the only expert who saw it that way. >> the head and chest injuries are not consistent with someone that tumbles down the cliff face. >> dr. maryann clayton was the bergen county medical examiner who first ruleds circumstances of jody's death could not be determined. now on second look she said the victim's wounds or lack of them told her something different, something vital. if jody had tumbled incidentally down the palisades, she would have had broken bones everywhere. she did not. >> there were no visible injuries on the back of mrs. sharp's body. >> but why would steven have killed his wife?
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the biggest reason the prosecutor argued was that steven did not want a divorce. he didn't want a custody fight. and he didn't want to split assets with jody. and there was yet another motive for steven said the prosecutor. a potential payout. >> usa life insurance company. >> an insurance representative testified about a $500,000 policy taken out against jody sharp months before her death. payable to a primary beneficiary. >> can you tell us the policy owner? >> steven f. sharp. >> jody sharp was simply worth more dead than alive. her friend, maryann, testified that jody feared steven might do something violent if she pushed for that divorce. even so, maryann said, jody was determined to get away from her husband. >> she was going to have divorce
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papers served on steven and she was very afraid of it. >> yet was steven violent enough to on kill hkill his wife? and unlikely but powerful witness was about to testify against steven sharp. >> i'm here for my mother. >> his own son took the stand against him. now a businessman, jonathan sharp painted his father as an angry violent man who terrorized his mother. >> did you see that abuse? >> i did. >> jonathan sharp said he realized his father had likely killed his mother only after that arrest in 2008. this videotaped interview shows him recalling the dark past for the first time to police. and now in court, he had even more to tell about his childhood. like the afternoon he sat cowering in the back seat of a car watching his mother suffer.
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>> my mom was driving and my dad was hitting her with the bottom of his fist. and i was like begging him to stop doing it. >> he also remembered the last day of his mother's life. he was 10. and said his mother told his father that she didn't want to go out with him alone. >> she said if i wanted to go out with you, i wouldn't be divorcing you. >> but why was the proof that steven had planned to kill jody that night? well, there was the hammer in the picnic bag. but there was also testimony from this woman, one of steven's old girlfriends. >> i enmentiven mentioned to my girlfriend that it was a perfect relationship. >> terry had been dating steven months before sharp's death about that. >> did mr. sharp tell you whether or not he was married? >> actually he said he said he was not married. >> and she remembered something
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strange steven stoaid to her on the beach. >> he was under a lot of stress and the stress would be resolved by the end of september. >> two weeks later, jody sharp was dead. terry now sees that cryptic statement in a dreadful like. >> like, oh, no, the end of september and then the light bulb went off immediately. >> it open the before on for maryann. in perhaps the most chilling testimony of the prosecution's case, she told the jury that when she heard her friend was gone, she immediately remembered something jody said just weeks earlier. >> is she said that during this conversation that i have with him, if anything happens to me, you'll know who did it. you'll know it was him. >> the prosecutor's position was clear, a husband with a motive, the perfect setting, the violent intent to kill his wife. or was there another way of looking at that couple perched
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high on those cliffs on a summer night? steven's new wife says the prosecution has it all wrong. >> my husband is not capable. that is not the man he is. my husband is sweet, kind, loving, considerate. >> the defense was ready to show how steven sharp far from villain was the real victim in this story. coming up -- >> they destroyed the crime scene area. >> new questions about the evidence and was there another reason why his son might implicate his dad? >> who does the money go to? >> it goes to me. >> when "dateline" continues. ip, switch to walgreens. we make it easy to seize the day, so you can get more out of life and medicare part d. just walk right in for savings that will be the highlight of your day.
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i don't actually talk. though i'm smart enough to. i'm the new sleep number 360 smart bed. let's meet at a sleep number store. steven sharp is not guilty! >> 18 years after the death of his first wife, more than a decade after the investigation first stalled, steven sharp was
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being called a killer. but his defense attorney argued there was no new evidence in this case, no new eyewitnesses. only new opions. >> we're talking about the same old facts and circumstances. >> he said the state was hoping to win a murder conviction by painting his client as a terrible husband, that it couldn't prove he was a killer in 1992 and it couldn't prove it today. >> my client steven sharp has been wrongfully charged with her death. >> and one reason the prosecutor couldn't prove murder had to do with sloppy police work the defense attorney said, suggesting it had been like keystone cop on the palisades that fatal night. >> you never photographed the body before you moved it, did you? >> no, sir. >> why didn't they take photographs? they destroyed the crime scene
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area. >> they didn't even bother to question potential eyewitnesses he said. instead, they cleared visitors from the lookout. >> there might have been someone who saw something or heard something. >> there might have been. there is a possibility that might have happened. >> and if police were so suspicious of hisr the defense why didn't they videotape their interview with him, that way jurors could have judged steven sharp's supposedly odd demeanor for themselves. >> why didn't you? >> he wasn't in custody. i don't know. >> the defense attorney also argued that police misinterpreted what his client said in his home just hours later. >> my client never said this wasn't an accident. >> and as for that hammer, police thought was a weapon? >> the hammer was examined by the forensics experts. there was nothing found on that hammer. >> and the defense attorney
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pressed the medical examiner on her flip-flop, undetermined manner of death in '93, and now it was a homicide? really? >> are you trying to say that you're learning from your m mistakes on this case? >> you may call them mistakes, sir. i did the best i could in 1992 documenting what i had observed with mrs. sharp. >> the medical examiner was helpful to the defense in one critical way though. she determined that jody had been drunk the night she fell off the cliffs. jody had a blood alcohol level of 0.12. that was over the legal limit. >> would be equivalent to approximately four average size drink, wine, beer, something like that. >> a drunken slip and fall argued the defense. to back that up, the lawyer had his own heavy hitter, famed forensic pathologist dr. cyril
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wecht. but wecht had a totally different take on how skroedy sharp died. >> i would call this an accidental death. >> in wecht's version, which he demonstrated with of all things a teddy bear, jody fell off the cliff and on to jagged rocks just below causing her mortal wounds. her body then catapulted. >> out goes the body and it hurls into the air. >> into the tree canopy which then carried her through the abyss and into that distant tree. >> this is what i think happened to explain those injuries of the chest and head. >> but there was another bubble to burst in the prosecution's case. the motive for murder. steven sharp wasn't a greedy killer his attorney said. his client never made a claim on that insurance policy. it was only after the money was
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turned over to the state years later he said that steven sharp even bothered to collect. >> would it throw fuel on the fire not do it? wow, i know i look guilty because i am guilty, i better not make this claim. >> you're damned if you do, you're damned if you don't. >> the other alleged motive, divorce, was flimsy as well he said. jody and steven had been talking breakup for years. those divorce papers just the latest in an ongoing marital spat. >> the prosecutor paints a picture of someone who, frankly, is furious about this divorce. >> no one person ever indicated that my client was furious over this divorce. they had talked about divorce for years. maybe she was, you know, saying one thing and not following through. >> though it is true steven sharp did not want a divorce.
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he says he wanted to given the marriage another chance. and as for that former girlfriend, terry schofield? th marriage another chance. and as for that former girlfriend, terry schofield? she recounted steven's mysterious statement just before her death. >> give me to the end of september and everything will be okay. the stress will be -- a lot of the stress will be gone. >> the defense attorney says that was steven's clumsy way of trying to dump his girlfriends. and speaking of which he added, those other women did not bother jody at all. she was seeing other people herself. >> the person on the bottom half in both of those is who? >> jody sharp. >> the record keeper of a dating service testified that jody's name was on an application. she even checked off the interests she'd like to share with a mate. the attorney offered that of proof of their open marriage. but what really wrangled the
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defense, what had torn at the heart of steven scharf was the testimony of his son, jonathan. >> i remember her showing me her bruises. >> he painted his father as a brute and possibly a killer. >> i never hit jody. it made me sick to my stomach. >> the young man wasn't to be believed said the lawyer. for one thing, when police interviewed jonathan back in 2008, the young man described his dad as a good guy. it was only after detectives told him had dad a had just been arrested that the son turned on his father. >> before you found out that your dad was arrested, did you lie? >> yes. >> and did you lie more than once? >> yes. >> why would jonathan turn on
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his father and lie? the defense lawyer said it was jonathan, not his dad, who was motivated by greed. if steven scharf was convicted, his son would get all that insurance money. >> who does the money go to? >> it goes to me. >> in the end, the lawyer called steven's son a spoiled brat. >> sounds like some spoiled kid. >> who was not a credible witness. in closing, he insisted that this wasn't a murder case, just a sad story about a woman who tumbled drunkenly to her death. >> this case iss an accident, nothing more, nothing less. >> soon it would be in the hands of a jury are. coming up -- >> it was a light bulb, you couldn't help but think that's interesting. >> the jurors speak. what would they decide?
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>> steven, did you kill your wife jody? >> the verdict when "dateline" continues. 60% of women are wearing the wrong size pad and can experience leaks discover always my fit. find the number that's right for your flow and panty size on the top of any always pack. the better the fit, the better it protects. always.
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welcome back to "dateline." the jury is about to decide the fate of steven scharf. here is the conclusion to our story. 18 years after a night that ended in his wife's death off a cliff, steven scharf stood accused of murder by the state of new jersey. and through it all, one thing he wants you to know is this -- he would never have laid a hand on his beloved jody. never. steven, did you kill your wife, jody? >> i did not kill jody. i did not. >> did you throw her off the palisades? >> no, i did not.
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i did not. i didn't hurt jody. i didn't push her. i didn't cause her death. i didn't kill my wife. >> we talked to steven scharf at the bergen koubtter geagain ber jail. he and his wife say they paid a high price for something he didn't do. >> our daughter is 2 1/2 and still never been held by her father. because we don't have contact visits. >> it's not just a tragedy for jody, it's a tranlg dgedy for j. it's a tragedy for my wife, it's a tragedy for my daughter. and for myself. >> still he decided not to take the stand in his own defense. but told "dateline" that what he first said years ago about his wife's death was the truth. >> i wish it didn't happen. i wish we had gone to the comedy club. i'm innocent.
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>> but had the jury gotten that same message? when they walked in to that deliberating room for the first time, some jurors in fact planned to vote not guilty. >> there wasn't enough evidence for me. that's what it was. >> others were thinking ghiuilt. >> it was several things. it was no one thing had made up my mind. >> but jurors went back and forth over the evidence and here's what they came to believe. that jody was likely drunk and that her husband knew it, and if that was the case, why would he let her get so close to the edge of a cliff. >> as the husband knowing that your wife was drinking, would you bring her there? >> the jurors deliberated three days before deciding whether steven scharf should be found guilty or not guilty of a single count of murder. >> on the charge of murder of jody -- >> guilty. >> guilty.
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later, jurors said what united them was the testimony of jody's friend, telling them that jody was terrified of her husband. >> that possibly she was telling everyone if something happens to me, it's my husband. >> and it was another woman in steven's life who also swayed the jury. terry schofield recounting what steep said to her week befos be jody's death, that her stress would soon be over. >> that was something that pushed me towards what we decided in the end. >> it was the light bulb. >> to them, it wasn't jody who slipped, but her husband with that menacing statement. they believed it wasn't just a fall from the cliffs, it was a cold blooded execution. steven scharf was sentenced to life in prison. he says the jurors condemned him not on the facts but for his and jody's tumultuous open marriage.
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>> so you think this was a moral on judgment on the part of the jurors? >> yes. and i suppose some people would say he was punished for his morals, but this was a murder trial. >> but for on the rescuer, it's a fitting end to a story that haunted him sthanince that nigh. >> there has never left me. it's been years. i went back there myself without people knowing it several times because it bothered me. something was wrong. >> and for close friends like maryann, the verdict does not remove the sting of the loss. >> i'm angry that he took the life of a beautiful person. that's what bothers me the most. that he would do that and think that he was going to get away with it. he wanted the insurance money. he wanted his son. he'd have the house. he'd have whatever he wanted. and she'd be out of the way. now, i think that was sad.
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that is all for this edition of "dateline." i'm craig melvin. thank you for watching. i'm craig melvin. >> i'm natalie morales. this is "dateline." here is the person i love. he's dying. her husband, a decorated military officer, shot in the dark of night. >> it was an execution. >> was this some sort of hit? >> he was in special forces. there must have been something at work. >> that's what police thought too. until they learned about the secret life of this husband and wife. >> they would meet couples on the internet. >> was there a forbidden affair? >> they were probably meeting for sex about four times a week. >> and did it lead to murder? >> she is absolutely cold-blooded


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